Music In The Classroom

Does Music Integration Affect Student Learning?


            This paper examines the rationale for integrating Music into the schools. When discussing music, I will be looking at music in the regular classroom setting as well as music being taught in a band or choir class by a professional musician. The overarching question is; does music integration affect student learning?


Rationale for teaching music in the classroom

            From the inception of the American school system the founder Horace Mann, believed that music was essential to the education of the young. Through music students developed aesthetic appreciation, citizenship, and creative thinking skills. Allen Miller and Dorita Coen (Coen, Miller, 1994) state, “students learn the rich and wordless dimensions of their own cultural heritage through music. They discover in the musical heritage of other cultures a common ground that minimizes national boundaries and language differences.” I observed this with my students while we were listening to music from other countries and drawing the form or an image that came to mind from each piece of music. I saw similarities in my student’s drawings and the use of similar colors for each piece. I have a diverse group of learners from many countries around the world and the music still touched each one of them in similar ways. Therefore, I do believe that music is universal and does cross boundaries and language differences.

            In the past ten years there has been an abundance of research and policy developments that support arts in education. Russ Chapman (Chapman, 1998) discusses the value of Art education. Through a grant funded by the Getty Education Institute for the Arts, art instruction at Shady Brook Elementary School in Texas was moved from the academic curriculum to the core curriculum. As a result, the study found after five years (as measured by the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills), reading scores were up 12.3%, writing scores rose 14%, and math scores soared by 61%. By 1997, all the sixth graders enrolled at Shady Brook Elementary School demonstrated reading mastery. The study also looked at both anecdotal and empirical evidence, which indicated that a comprehensive Arts education enhanced students’ ability to understand concepts and to express themselves in a variety of modalities.

            Elizabeth Gould, an assistant professor of music education at Boise State University, collected data on The Elk City School in Idaho (Gould, 2000). Elk City has a curriculum that has been identified as Fine Arts and Literature based. Gould found that the self-esteem, sense of well-being, and lifelong happiness of the students were enhanced in this school setting. Her study concluded that through integrating the Arts into the curriculum, the students were excited to attend school and strove to do their best in all academic areas.

            Craig Sautter (Sautter, 1994) cites the findings of the College Entrance Examination Board. They found that students who had taken more than four years of music and/or the Arts scored an average of 34 points higher on the verbal sections of the SAT and 18 points higher on the math sections as compared to students who took these subjects for less than a year.

            After reflection on these findings I decided to look at the WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) scores for the 7th grade population at my school last year. I broke the students out into four groups: ASMS (Art Science Middle School) students, Band students, General population, and ASMS students who also take band.

The ASMS program is a school within a school program at North Middle School. We use the Arts as the binding thread to integrate all of our core subject areas. I teach the 8th grade language arts, reading and social studies component of the program. We currently serve 180 students in grade 6 through 8.

            In the year 2006, students must pass the WASL test with a score of 3 or 4 in all areas in their 10th grade year to be eligible for graduation. The results of the 7th grade test last year are as follows:

Number of Students

Group              WASL 0          WASL 1          WASL 2          WASL 3          WASL 4

ASMS             2                      9                      10                    4                      6

Band                1                      10                    3                      7                      8

General            18                    45                    12                    11                    10


Band                0                      1                      6                      3                      10


Percentages of Students

ASMS             6%                   29%                 32%                 13%                 19%

Band                3%                   34%                 10%                 24%                 28%

General            19%                 47%                 13%                 11%                 10%


Band                0%                   5%                   30%                 15%                 50%


            The test results of the ASMS students who are involved in band shows a dramatic increase in the WASL test scores versus the general population. From this I conclude that music and the Arts do increase student learning and achievement in other academic areas.

            I strongly advocate teaching through the Arts as a program that should be available to all students. Through readings and research, I have come to the conclusion that by teaching through the Arts we are able to teach and reach the whole child. Integrating the Arts in the ASMS program has created a positive learning environment, increased self-esteem, increased student test scores, and given every child the chance to be successful in middle school.




Chapman, R. (1998). The Arts Improve Student Performance. Education Digest, 63,


Gould, E. (2000). An Exemplary Arts Integration Project. General Music Today, 14


Miller, A. &Coen, D. (1994). The Case for Music In the Schools. Phi Delta Kappan,

            February 1994, 459-461.

Sautter, C. (1994). An Arts Education School Reform Strategy. Phi Delta Kappan,

            February 1994, 432-437.